Monday, August 24, 2009

Vegas: December '07 II

Before we left for this trip, we decided that we were going to do something different this time. We were going to have a little competition between the four of us. When you’re sitting at the tables, it’s pretty commonplace to chat up the people around you when there are breaks in the action. It’s typical banter; where ya from and what do you do? The goal was to make up backgrounds about ourselves and tell them at the tables in an effort to get someone to call you a liar. It’s like Fight Club; “You’re gonna pick a fight with a total stranger, and you’re gonna lose.” Most people will go out of their way to avoid a fight, as the movie says. And most people will do anything to avoid calling you a liar.

The cover ID’s
Pat: Published author.
Trina: Owner of the second-largest organic tobacco farm in the Midwest.
Me: 2010 Olympic hopeful…in Curling.
Mom: You guys are stupid.

Of course, there’s a fine line between selling the cover enough to be believable, but still leaving enough question to prompt someone to call you out. And sitting around the dinner table, Pat was unconvinced that I would be able to pass inspection as an Olympic curler. Try me…

“How many guys to a team?”
“Five. Two shooters, two sweepers, and an anchor who is good at both.”
“Huh? Okay, how long is the alley?”
“It’s called a lane, and it’s 30 meters.”
“Alright…how heavy’s the puck?”
“It’s a stone, for the record, and it’s 10kg.”
“Dude, have you done this before?”

Armed with the cover IDs, we sat, and played. The first day was a bust. The only people we talked to was “That Guy” who left right after we sat down, and Phillipe, the Bahamian dealer at the Excalibur. Not to worry. If there’s one thing spy movies have taught me it’s that you don’t force a good cover ID. Just keep it handy for when the time comes…and it will come.

The second day found us taking a trip downtown to historic Freemont Street. I love seeing Freemont Street. It never gets old. You can spend the whole day there, but you don’t have to. You can see pretty much all of it inside of an hour or two. The other great part of it is all the gambling is cheap. In some cases, you can still play blackjack at $3 per hand. So we started with the oldest hotel in Vegas. Can’t remember the name of the place, but the address is 1 Freemont Street. Easy enough to remember, right?

We played a few hands there, breaking about even or so, and moved on the Binion’s to sit at a populated table and let the lying commence.

Sitting with several other people who were there before us and clearly there together, we started chatting during a shuffle. Pat and I were both starting to get excited when the “Where ya from?” question came out. We told them we were from Cincinnati, and asked them the same question, finding out they were from Seattle. Silence. So we tried again.

“What do you guys do?”
“I’m a this, I’m a that…yada yada yada.” Neither of us cared, we just wanted our window.
Silence. Nothing. Nada. No “what do you guys do?” Nothing.

Undaunted, we played a little while longer, then hopped a cab and took a trip back to the north end of the strip to Slots of Fun to have a big hotdog; a massive foot-long with chili and cheese, for $1.59. and he saw that it was good…

Into the Wynn we went. Ah, the Wynn. It’s just beautiful, inside and out. We stopped, had a cocktail, and walked the floor. The Wynn strikes the right balance of ambiance and comfort. It’s an impressive place to be, but you don’t feel uncomfortable sitting down to gamble. To that end, shall we get a few hands in?

Again, we sat at a table with two other people, and mid-shuffle start the “where ya from and what do you do” conversation. The computer programmer from Phoenix and the retail district manager from Newport were happy to tell us, and then silence. Nothing. No reciprocity, what so ever. Ask me what I do, damnit! Nothing. Hell with them…

So back to the hotel we went to get ready for dinner. It was to be our “dress to the nines” night, where we all got gussied up and pretended we were rich. What better way to do that then to spend a house payment on food and booze at Red Square? I’ve never seen such reckless abandon for ordering food and drinks. It was insane, but considering how empty the place was the week before Christmas, the waitress was happy to oblige. And what better way to pass the night all decked out then to sit at the tables in suits with hot women in dresses feeling like James Bond? That is of course, assuming 007 bet $5-10 a hand.

All right, last full day. The plan was to sit at every table we could, talk to as many people as possible, and use these back-stories…and we struck out EVERYWHERE! Not one person, not one dealer, not one pit boss, not one stinking cocktail waitress would take the bait. AGH! It just wasn’t to be. My Olympic dreams were dashed.

Dinner that night was a voyage into Tapas. We walked the strip stopping here and there, and just having an appetizer wherever we stopped. Not really my idea of a dinner, but we did find our way to Mon Ami Gabi to watch the fountains at Bellagio from the patio. That event would prompt the next day’s happenings.

We were now in the precarious fourth day. We were leaving that afternoon, but with the time left in the day when we arrived, then the time left before we had to catch our flight, we were working on four days in Vegas. Untested territory. Undiscovered country. But, since we were there, one more good meal and maybe a few more minutes of blackjack awaited. So we headed back to Paris and Mon Ami Gabi.

As luck would have it, we were early, and they didn’t open for another half hour. Didn’t really matter since people were already queuing up to sit down. But with time to kill, why not play a few more hands. We’d already taken a bit of a beating, Pat especially. He’s not what I would consider to be a good gambler. More on this in a minute. But as if some odd twist of fate, the gods saw fit to send us on our way on a high note. Somehow, we sat down and couldn’t lose? By the time our table was ready, a whirlwind of cards had shown me about $150 in winnings. And with one last chance at stardom, I cast the “what do you do” lure. Everyone responded, but not one bite. ASK ME WHAT I DO FOR A LIVING, DAMIT! Nothing. We ate, and went to the airport.

Even the bad gamblers catch a break sometimes. Now, what makes a bad gambler? If you split face cards against, well, anything, are you a bad gambler? Maybe. If you don’t double down on an 11 against a dealer’s 6, are you a bad gambler? Possibly. If you don’t know basic strategy and are limping along at a blackjack table betting the table minimum, are you a bad gambler? Decidedly not. Well, you might be on your way, but you’re not there yet, so watch yourself. Chances are, you’re just inexperienced. Like I said, everyone was a beginner once. We were all once novice. Look around a casino. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, and none of it was built on people winning money. You can play perfect strategy, count every card in the deck, have a hit card with you, whatever, and still lose. Conversely, you can play like a numbskull, and still win. Do you know when to leave? Can you call a winning session over before you give it all back? Do you know when to cut your losses and be done, gracefully, without making a scene about how the casino jut brought in a closer because you were winning to much? Hey, if you don’t think these statements are made, just look around a casino once in a while. Do you know when to not reach back into your wallet for another hundred?

These are all lessons Pat has never bothered to learn. Too bad too, because he’s a lot of fun to play cards with, and he almost always brings good mojo to the table. But such is his cross to bear.

But Vegas is a funny place. I watched Pat plunk down more crisp $100’s then I care to count, and I saw dealers take away all his pretty chips more times then he’d care to count. And as if the city just wants us to come back again, we finished on an high note, taking back some profit. A hundred dollar profit can almost make you forget about the grand you lost in the past two days…almost.

Only in Vegas.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this one...very accurate..

7:56 PM  

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